myofascial-pain-syndromeMyofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is where pressure on sensitive points within your muscles (trigger points) causes pain and sometimes refers pain to seemingly unrelated parts of your body. It can occur after a muscle has been contracted repetitively ie. repetitive motions used in jobs or hobbies or by stress-related muscle tension. While nearly everyone has experienced muscle tension pain at some point, the discomfort associated with myofascial pain syndrome persists or worsens. There is no laboratory, radiographic or other diagnostic tests to prove the diagnosis of myofascial pain syndrome so it is considered a “subjective” diagnosis. Myofascial trigger points do not always cause pain. Sometimes they can lie dormant or inactive within a muscle for months or even years. Trigger points can often be identified by a skilled therapist working through your muscles with deep tissue massage. They feel like little knots deep within the muscles which when pressed are extremely tender.

Fascia is the body’s connective tissue. It is a head to toe, all-encompassing and interwoven system of fibrous connective tissue found throughout the body. Your  fascia provides a framework that helps support and protect individual muscle groups, organs, and the entire body as a unit. It is the same as that cling film, elastic type structure that surrounds a joint of meat, helping hold it together when the outer skin is removed.

This fascia in itself can also contribute to ”myofascial pain” syndrome. Injury, illness, stress, aging and repetitive use, can cause the fascia to shorten, thicken and become more unyielding . All the nerves and blood vessels run through the fascia. Therefore, if this connective tissue is tight, the associated tissues will have poor nutrient exchange. This exacerbates any painful situation because toxic metabolic waste products build up which often further aggravate pain receptors. This can create a vicious cycle, leading to increased muscle tension and further thickening and hardening of the fascia, which in turn further limits mobility.


Signs and symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome may include:

  • Deep, aching pain in a muscle
  • Pain that persists or worsens
  • A tender knot in a muscle
  • Difficulty sleeping due to pain
  • Spasm in the area

The most commonly affected muscle groups include those of the neck, shoulders, upper  & lower back. Generally one side of the body is more affected than the other. It is common for patients with myofascial pain syndrome to have poor sleep patterns. This is associated with feeling unrested after a nights ”sleep” and daytime tiredness . Stiffness after inactivity is also a common feature.



Myofascial pain can often benefit greatly from ”proper skilled deep tissue massage”, and trigger point release, both manual and with dry needling techniques. The fascia can also be stretched and worked out during the massage.  This is also one of the benefits of a stretching program when incorporated into your exercise routine. It helps keep prevent the fascia from tightening up because you are continually stretching it out.

During treatment for myofascial pain it is important that the patients reduce their stress levels, if this is a contributing factor to the condition. Exercises prescribed by a physio may also help, along with improving ones sleep patterns. In severe, chronic cases, medications may be needed to aid recovery.

Often trials of different medications are used to find the best treatment for a particular patient. For example, trazodone or amitriptyline may be used at bedtime to improve sleep as well as relieve pain;  cyclobenzaprine or  orphenadrine can also be  used to relax muscles and aid sleep; and antidepressants such as sertraline, fluoxetine(prozac), duloxetine, can be used to control pain, as can lyrica and gabapentin. Medications have side effects, so are  added as a last resort in chronic cases showing little improvement with physio alone. They should only be taken under a doctors supervision.


Physiotherapists Tralee : Phone 0867700191

IASTMInstrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, also known as ”IASTM” for short is a process in which the clinician uses a set of ergonomically designed hand held instruments to break down the scar tissue and fascial restrictions in soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia ). The instruments you see in the photo are made of surgical grade stainless steel. Hypoallergenic aqueous cream or massage oil is used to facilitate gliding of the instrument along the muscle, tendon etc. during treatment.  The technique itself is said to have evolved from a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine called Gua Sha.  IASTM is a is a procedure that is growing  rapidly in popularity due to both the effectiveness and efficiency 0f the technique.

Once the damaged areas are detected, the instruments are used to deliver controlled microtrauma to the affected area. The purpose of the microtrauma is to stimulate a local inflammatory response, which initiates reabsorption of excessive scar tissue and facilitates a cascade of healing activities. Adhesions within the soft tissue that may have developed as a result of surgery, immobilization, muscle tears, or repetitive strain etc., are broken down, allowing the patient to regain function and range of movement. This treatment is a little intense, but it is extremely effective. It is somewhat similar to ”deep tissue massage” and/or ”rolfing”, but I always feel more is achieved in a shorter time-frame with IASTM technique . As in any Manual therapy treatment, it is usually not the only modality used. Supplementation with  stretching/strengthening exercises  etc. designed to correct biomechanical deficiencies by readdressing musculo-skeletal strength and imbalances  may also be prescribed  in conjunction with IASTM. I have used this form treatment both on myself and clients to great effect.

For more information check out these videos

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3


We are physiotherapists in Tralee, Co. Kerry. For more information on our treatments, prices, conditions we treat etc, check out our homepage. Also we are open 7am – 10pm weekdays and 8am – 2pm Saturdays. Phone 086-7700191





”Shin Splints” – Which Type Have You ?

shin splints”Shin splints” is a catch-all term for shin pain either on the front outside part of the lower leg (anterior shin splints) or on the inside of the lower leg (medial shin splints). It is the curse of many athletes including runners, tennis players, dancers etc. Frequently the condition plagues novice runners who do not build their mileage gradually enough. It also affects seasoned runners who abruptly change their workout regimen, suddenly adding too much mileage, or switching from running on the flat to hills. The term mainly refers mainly to the following three conditions 1. mini stress fractures within the tibia bone, 2. chronic exertional compartment syndrome, 3. medial tibial stress syndrome.  It is important to differentiate between the three for treatment.


1. Real ”shin splints”

Real ”shin splints” are mini stress fractures (splint-ers) within the tibia bone. With this condition pain is gradual in onset, getting worse with activity, and there is usually a history of an increase in training intensity. Pain may occur with walking, at rest, or even at night in bed. Treatment for this condition involves rest for about eight weeks from running to allow the little stress fractures to heal. You should be able to keep up fitness levels by cycling, swimming etc., as these exercises are low impact. You may need to look at lower limb biomechanics, running style, training practices etc. to prevent recurrence of the shin splints .


2. Shin splints – Chronic exertional compartment syndrome

Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is defined as increased pressure within a closed fibro-osseous space(like the space the tibia and fibula), causing reduced blood flow and tissue perfusion(perfusion is the process of a body delivering blood to a capillary bed in its biological tissue), which subsequently leads to ischemic pain(pain due to restriction of blood supply, and thus oxygen and nutrients to tissue) and possible permanent damage to tissues of the compartment. The syndrome is frequently bilateral (both legs). Typical features of the condition are absence of pain at rest, with increasingly achy pain and a sensation of tightness in the shins upon exertion. Symptoms usually resolve or significantly dissipate within several minutes of resting. Anyone can develop the condition, but it is more common in athletes who participate in activities that involve repetitive impact, such as running. Sometimes Chronic exertional compartment syndrome may respond to deep tissue work and myofascial release of the structures involved. Changing your chosen activity to one involving less impact may also help. Surgery may be used as a last resort to relieve the pressure. It involves operating on the inelastic tissue encasing each muscle compartment (fascia). Methods include either cutting open the fascia of each affected compartment (fasciotomy) or actually removing part of the fascia (fasciectomy).


Shin splints – Medial tibial stress syndrome

 Medial tibial stress syndrome is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your tibia. A common cause of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is pes planus (flat feet) or over-pronation of the foot during running. This puts increased strain on the Tibialis Posterior and soleus muscles leading to chronic traction at their insertions onto the periosteum on the posterior inner border of the tibia, producing pain in this area. Mild swelling in the area may also occur. The pain may be sharp and razor-like or dull and throbbing, occurring both during and after exercise, and aggravated by touching the sore spot. Initial treatment involves rest, ice, analgesics. Again switching to low impact activities such as swimming or cycling can keep a sports person active during recovery. For treatment, the entire calf should be assessed. The use of myofascial release techniques along with proper hands-on deep tissue work concentrating on thickened muscle fibres of the soleus, flexor digitorum longus and tibialis posterior adjacent to their bony attachments can prove effective. Dry needling and electro-acupuncture can also benefit recovery. Arch supporting orthotic insoles designed to reduce impact forces, correct flat-footedness and overpronation during running can help prevent recurrence and facilitate recovery by offloading affected structures. For some more information click here.

thoracic outlet syndromeThoracic outlet syndrome is a disorder that occurs when the blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and first rib (thoracic outlet) become compressed. This can result in any of the following symptoms ; 1. pain in your shoulders and/or neck , 2. numbness / pain / tingling down the arm and / or in a finger / fingers. Common causes include physical trauma, i.e. car crash ; repetitive injuries from job or sports related activities; anatomical defects (such as having an extra rib); poor posture( protruding neck / rounded shoulders); and pregnancy.

You may notice symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome if your job requires you to do a repetitive movement continuously for long periods, i.e. typing on a computer; working on an assembly line; or lifting things above your head. These repetitive activities tend to tighten up neck and shoulder muscles. Athletes, such as baseball pitchers and swimmers can also develop thoracic outlet syndrome from the years of repetitive movements.

Obesity can put an undue amount of stress on your body structures and joints leading to the development of thoracic outlet syndrome. Carrying around an over sized bag or backpack or having somebody sitting on your shoulders for long periods, say at a concert can compress nerve structures etc. and lead to the condition. You may suffer symptoms during pregnancy as muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints come under strain. This is as a result of the release of the hormone relaxin around week twelve of pregnancy, and also due to the increase in bodyweight.

The two most common types of thoracic outlet syndrome are:

1. Neurogenic (neurological) : This form of thoracic outlet syndrome is characterized by compression of the brachial plexus ( nerves coming from the spinal cord (neck). This network of nerves controls muscle movements and sensations in the shoulder, arm and hand. This is the most common cause of thoracic outlet syndrome.

Signs and symptoms include:
• Numbness or tingling in your arm or fingers.
• Wasting of muscles through which the compressed nerve travels; either in the arm or fingers or both.
• Pain in the neck , shoulder or hand.
• Weakened grip in hand / loss of strength in the arm.

Treatment : Often if neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome is caught early, deep tissue work on neck, shoulders and arm to loosen out tightened muscles; joint mobilisations / manipulation of the cervical and thoracic spine; electro acupuncture along the affected nerve pathway; postural correction exercises, can usually bring great relief within one or two treatment sessions. If the condition is chronic ( i.e. there a month or months), it may take more time for the irritated nerve to settle. You may need to lose weight if obesity is the cause of your thoracic outlet syndrome.

2.Vascular (venous or arterial): This type occurs when one or more of the veins or arteries are compressed in the area between the collarbone and first rib.
Signs and symptoms include:
• Discoloration of the hand (bluish colour).
• Arm pain and swelling, possibly due to blood clots.
• Blood clots in veins or arteries in the upper area of your body.
• Lack of colour in one or more of your fingers or your entire hand.
• Weakened or no pulse in the affected arm.
• Cold fingers, hands or arms.
• Arm fatigue after activity.
• Numbness or tingling in your fingers.
• Throbbing lump near your collar bone.
• Weakness of arm or neck.

Treatment : For vascular (venous or arterial) thoracic outlet syndrome…you need to consult with your doctor. This condition may require thrombolytic medications, anticoagulant medications or surgery.